The Vallejo Police Department continues to prove that it is incapable of inspiring public trust or investigating the actions of its own officers, and a revelation came recently that a key piece of evidence in the shooting of Sean Monterrosa has already been destroyed.
Vallejo has a higher per-capita rate of police shootings than neighboring cities, as KQED's Michael Krasny spoke about on "Forum" this morning. And from the public's perspective, there seems to be some effort to protect officers within the department from prosecution in these incidents.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra continues to stand by his earlier decision not to investigate the June 2 killing of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa by a Vallejo officer. However, Becerra announced Friday that his office would investigate the destruction of the windshield of the police pickup truck through which an officer fatally shot Monterrosa as he was kneeling on the ground outside a Walgreens during a night of protests and looting.
"The allegations concerning destruction of evidence under the watch of the Vallejo Police Department are significant," Becerra said in a Friday statement. "For public trust to exist, each and every part of our criminal justice system must operate in cohesion and there’s little room for error. That’s why we’ve accepted Chief Williams’ request to take a look at what happened with the evidence and relay our findings to the District Attorney’s Office for review."
"The bottom line is that law enforcement across the country are rightly coming under the microscope and they have to get these things right if there’s going to be a chance to rebuild trust," Becerra added.
But District Attorney Krishna Abrams already recused herself from investigations into both this shooting, and the February 2019 shooting of Willie McCoy, saying, that she felt it was a conflict of interest for her to continue investigating the Vallejo PD, with whom she must work on a daily basis. "The attorney general, as the chief law enforcement officer, has the legal duty, and constitutional and statutory authority to take full charge of any investigation or prosecution," Abrams said.
Becerra has agreed to a separate, more broad investigation into the Vallejo PD's "policies and practices," but he has stopped short of investigating any individual shooting.
The windshield in question was discarded — either intentionally or unintentionally — and the police vehicle from which Monterrosa was shot was summarily put back into service with a new windshield, as we learned two weeks ago. As family attorney Melissa Nold, who is working with civil rights attorney John Burris to represent the Monterrosa family, said in a statement to the Chronicle, "You don’t have to be an expert, or a police officer, or a crime scene analyst, to know that a bullet-ridden windshield is evidence. So, to have that discarded, it reeks of what either has to be corruption or somebody being completely inept, and I don’t know which is worse. This is evidence in a homicide case. It should have been preserved in whole, but at the very bare, bare minimum, certainly the windshield itself."
On Friday, House Speaker and Bay Area Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi called Monterossa's killing "a horrible act of brutality that continues to shake our Bay Area community," and she called for the FBI to step in with its own probe, as the Chronicle reported.
"Recent reports that key evidence in the investigation was destroyed are deeply disturbing and highlight the urgency and necessity of an outside, independent federal investigation,” Pelosi said in a statement. “We must insist on justice and accountability to honor Sean’s life and the lives of all killed by police brutality in America."
And state Senator Bill Dodd, who represents Solano County, backed up Pelosi's plea for a federal investigation.
The officer who fired the fatal shot at Monterrosa, through the vehicle windshield and before the vehicle had fully come to a stop, still has not been publicly identified. He can be heard on body camera footage asking, after taking the shot, "What did he point at us?” and then saying, “Hey, he pointed a gun at us." In reality, Monterrosa had a hammer in waistband, and no footage has been released that confirms officers' description of his position on the ground — which they now spuriously claim was a "crouching-down, half kneeling position, as if in preparation to shoot."
Monterrosa's family, having viewed the body-cam footage which all begins after Monterrosa was shot, is now demanding to see more.
Meanwhile, in the Mission District where Monterrosa grew up, a new memorial altar has appeared in addition to a mural of Sean, as Mission Local reports, as well as multiple hand-made posters reminding the public of the young life lost.